The New Generation of Fashion Tech

20 May, 2020

by Stepan Plotytsia, Head of eCommerce and Digital Marketing at EPAM

Every industry is being digitally transformed nowadays, and the fashion industry is no exception. Bringing new technologies into the fashion sphere and their impact on the industry can be compared to the invention of the wheel ages ago. Mobile and eCommerce technologies caused the first shockwaves by changing fashion product merchandising, while web and social media have streamlined the way it is promoted and marketed. Today, with the appearance of AR and VR technologies, people don’t even need to visit a store. We are also seeing more and more IoT implementation in fashion products, making them more personalized and bringing increased value to their owners. Chatbots have made digital marketing more conversational.

11111eCommerce itself remains the key driver that allows the fashion industry to deal with globalization, digital transformation, and the change in consumer habits. It is hard to overestimate the impact on the market – thousands of fashion retailers are closing their doors every year and the number continues to grow. Modern consumers prefer the buying experience over buying stuff, which has brought more competition into the digital world. eCommerce technologies are helping fashion brands grow – by expanding into new markets, increasing online presence, accessing the middle-class, bringing new technologies to innovate business, and at the same time allowing companies to work with customer loyalty, maintain a healthy margin, tailor manufacturing to the trends and, of course, compete.

Having realized it is time to augment their business with digital instruments or move forward with evolving an existing eCommerce platform, companies face the necessity of making the correct choice, so that they get the largest return from their investment in the chosen technology or solution. It is good to start with business-need framing, so it will be easier to compare available solutions and find the perfect fit. Next, keeping in mind the basic rule “the best platform is not the most popular one, but the one that delivers pre-defined objectives and outcomes”, extensive research should be conducted. Making the right choice will not be easy either. Typical mistakes that companies make when choosing an eCommerce platform include taking a barely-scalable platform lacking multi-tenancy, templating and multi-site implementation that affects business growth, investing into unwieldy platforms requiring whole-system deployment even for small changes – resulting in significant downtimes as well as needing an expensive infrastructure to ensure an acceptable performance level, and buying solutions with too many functionalities provided out-of-the-box and resulting in system heaviness and extra spending with no returns. This may become a crucial decision for a business competing in a rapidly-changing fashion world, leading the company to significant losses or even bankruptcy. 

When considering the products’ variety, pricing models, order management, checkout, and payment flow, shipping approach, site management, templates and localization management, analytics collection and advanced reporting, payment system integration, design customization, customer rating, loyalty programs, headless implementation, mobile compatibility, marketing tools, security and dozens of other aspects, the choice lies between:

  • traditional (all-inclusive) on-premise platforms with their monolithic approach to design and implementation, with rich options for customization and integration, such as leading Oracle Commerce (formerly ATG), Sitecore Experience Commerce or SAP Commerce Cloud (formerly Hybris);
  • modular platforms like Commercetools, Elastic Path or open-source Magento that give the best opportunity for customization and integration, and which can be used together with other technologies – but meaning more development will be required to go live;
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms like Oracle Commerce Cloud or Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware) or Volusion, which give the opportunity for shortest time to market run having very limited IT capacity; SaaS comes with rich functionality for eCommerce implementation but has fairly limited customization capabilities;
  • building one’s own eCommerce platform, so the company gets only the needed functionality with a unique design and experience; this approach, however, requires strong IT backing with modern and mature development practices.

When it comes to costs, a company should realistically evaluate the budget it can afford for a license or service, development, maintenance, upgrades, and scalability, prior to making the final decision.

As companies strive for leading positions, they understand the importance of being in line with the latest technologies, and they look for opportunities to adopt these and gain benefits for their businesses. For example, the SAP Commerce Cloud (formerly Hybris) solution we developed for an American retailer that specializes in fashion for young women brought a commerce platform to this company, which improved cooperation and allowed them to increase sales along with third-party payment integration and advance reporting for business. Sometimes it happens that a company is unwilling to rebuild the existing eCommerce solution and asks for integration like the one we did for a multinational corporation that designs and manufactures shoes, clothing, and accessories: integrating a Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware) solution into a global website for 47 countries, developed using SDL Tridion, allowing item-purchasing from various existing pages without creating new ones. Another good example of eCommerce technology use in the fashion industry is the implemented-by-us B2C Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware)-based store that brought performance optimization and a new design to a fashion label owned, operated, and founded by an American designer. When it comes to the B2C segment, performance is key – millennials value experience and have no desire to wait.

If I can make a prediction, I would say that, next to the utilization of eCommerce technologies, the fashion industry will engage in more automation and data analysis. There are several reasons for this. The fact is that manufacturers have to deal with hundreds of billions of dollars in unsold stock annually, so manufacturers need to align with demand and respond rapidly to changing trends, which from a business standpoint will also improve operational efficiency as well as be a smart move in terms of the trend toward global zero waste. I think that will be widely promoted by companies in order to attract more customers. With the aggressive expansion of new markets, famous brands face issues with some regional manufacturers trying to reduce costs by unwelcome business practices, so Blockchain technology will bring order to origin clarity. On top of this, AR/VR tech development could change manufacturing itself, especially in the apparel world – why not create and sell a personal pattern that can be produced locally afterwards, so that more customers can access the luxury garment? Things could go even further: some smart companies could experiment with Big Data and Business Intelligence instruments to such a degree that the whole market is transformed to become more customer-centric than ever before, with an accompanying shift from supply chain to demand chain. Just imagine, the well-known unpleasant situation of bumping into another person wearing the same dress or sweater as you might never happen again. That’s a future we deserve, is it not? 🙂

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